INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Inpress MAY 2, 2001 - by Jonty Adderley
BRIAN ENO AND J. PETER SCHWALM RETURN TO AMBIENT
Electronic superstar producer Brian Eno recently teamed up with 20-something German DJ and producer J. Peter Schwalm to record his first album in over four years. Drawn From Life, the fruit of the new collaboration, marks a return to Eno's downtempo ambient explorations, for which he justifiably remains hugely rated. Mezz hooked up with them both at a meet and greet inside Eno's West London Mews house last week (located just yards from the armed police on twenty-four-hour guard outside sacked Brit politician Peter Mandelson's flat). While Eno, whose producer credits include Roxy Music, U2, Devo and David Bowie's best albums (Low and "Heroes") circulated amongst the hacks, Mezz grabbed J. Peter inside the loft apartment's studio. Bearded and smartly dressed (in a Daniel Day Lewis plays Mozart kind of style) he was both friendly and polite.
How did you connect with Brian Eno in the first place?
The contact came through a friend of mine who was working for a company doing some work on Brian's art installations in Germany. He happened to step into their office, my friend gave him my CD, and he called me weeks later and said, 'Hey, let's meet and do some things'. That was really how it happened. We didn't decide immediately to make a record because we didn't know how it would develop but everything went well and after a couple of months we found the right direction to progress in.
So did you literally arrive in his studio and play each other tracks?
Yes. It was all based around jamming. We didn't talk much when we made this record, we did when we were having lunch or dinner, but not when we were making the music. We'd come in each day, and usually record on the sixteen-track machine with everything separated. Then I transferred those tracks to my (Macintosh) G4 computer, took it all home to my studio and worked on the music there. I then sent him a CD with a proposal, he worked on it with equipment here, treated my stuff and sent it back to me on CD. I then put my arrangements on it and that's how it works between us.
Critics have already described the record as a return for Brian to his earlier ambient works, did the two of you discuss a specific direction?
No, not at all, but we're both interested in space in music, to keep space and to make it interesting, not boring. We don't talk about style actually, style doesn't make any sense to us when we make music, we didn't have categories when we started. I'm very jazz influenced and he always liked the feeling of jazz, but he was always annoyed by too many jazz soloists playing over the music. Like Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, for example; it's a great record but there's too much jazz on it. It's a great record and I love it, Miles Davis is my biggest inspiration but I prefer the feelings and ideas behind it rather than the jazz jamming.
Do you feel a particular connection with club music?
Sure, I feel a connection, I've made house tracks and was also a drum 'n' bass DJ for two years. My first release was also a drum 'n' bass track almost in a Photek style. I know what's going on but I must say when I'm in the studio and hear a good beat I do want to dance, but musically I'm bored. Because it's not changing and it's destroying the space. Because fast beats have less space between the kick drum for example. The rhythms on our records are slow with more space between the bass drum and the snare, so we can fit more harmonic or space stuff into it. We wanted to make an album that we could both listen to.
You've stressed how important space is, why is it so important to you?
I just need to live with space. In my personal life, in my relationship, in my bed, everywhere I always need space. I always live in flats with high ceilings, too. When I think about this record it's really a projection of [my] life.
Brian's rightfully acknowledged as one of the world's top producers, what have you learned from him?
I've learned not to think too much about the music and to concentrate instead on making it. He's a very pragmatic person, he just does it. When we started I would be just sitting, thinking, 'what's happening now?' and he'd be jamming, then I realized I was thinking too much. I'd previously been working too much sitting in front of a computer screen by myself and he brought me back to my roots. I'm a proper fully trained musician, a drummer. I appreciate what I've learned from him and I'll be changing my studio so that it's the same as his and we are compatible. We'll be able to jam, and also to analyse. I don't know what the next record will be like but it could be ambient or it could be totally uptempo. I'm sure it will be different.